Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 Dodgers' mideseason analysis and grades

The 2011 season has been one to forget for the organization. The team is not playing well on the field and everything with the McCourt saga is just draining.

The Dodgers finished their first 92 games (which qualifies as the first half) with a 41-51 record, good for fourth place in the National League West -- 11 games back of the division-leading Giants. Unfortunately, there isn't much hope in sight for this team. There are a couple of standout players, a few good ones and a lot of mediocre (at best) players. That isn't a recipe for success.

Without further adieu and to go along with Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness and Jim Bowden of ESPN (video), here are my grades.

Dodgers' first-half grade: D
- Despite ending the first half on a four-game winning streak, this team is not much fun to watch. As is usually the case, the team cannot score enough runs. Pitching was supposed to be the backbone of this team, especially after signing four starting pitchers (Garland, Kuroda, Lilly, Padilla) this off-season. The club has been hit with an abnormal amount of injuries and disabled list-stints, which plays a part in the poor performance. Even if everyone was healthy, the Dodgers, as currently constructed, are a .500 team. If the season ending today, the Dodgers' would have the No. 7 pick. The last time they had the No. 7 pick, they picked some kid named Kershaw.

Here is a grade breakdown for each player on the roster with explanations for most (grouped by position).

Rod Barajas
- We all cringed when General Manager Ned Colletti handed Barajas a $3.25 million contract for one good month. Despite playing just 56 games so far, he is second on the team in home runs (eight). He's been average, at best, defensively this season. Grade: D

James Loney
- Loney had a fantastic first half last season. He followed that up by one of the worst second halves in all of Major League Baseball. He started stunningly slow this season, hitting just .170/.194/.213 through April 25. Since the 25th, though, he's hit .307/.357/.394, so there is some hope for him going forward, despite the lack of power (doubles included). Grade: D+

Jamey Carroll
- Carroll has been consistent for the Dodgers in 2011. He's not going to hit for power, but he has a nice on-base percentage and has filled in at shortstop admirably for the injured Furcal. He's been one of the few bright spots on this team. Grade: B+

Juan Uribe
- Uribe's signing was by far the worst of the off-season -- and he's done nothing to make the doubters think twice. His batting average and slugging percentage are career-low marks, while his on-base percentage is the second-lowest of his career. The only saving grace was he brought some pop (40 HRs the last two season). This season: four home runs. Grade: F

Casey Blake
- Blake has struggled with injuries, which shouldn't be surprising for a 37-year-old who shouldn't be an everyday player in the Major Leagues. After a DL stint to start the season, he got off to a quick start: .319/.427/.522 through his first 18 games. Then the nagging injuries kicked in and his numbers in June quickly made his great .949 OPS look pedestrian: .169/.222/.271 (.744 OPS for the season). Grade: D+

Aaron Miles
- Miles was thought to be a throw-away signing by everyone. While he's still not a good player, he's been a lot better than anyone could have expected. His .318 average is empty, but at least he's hitting that well. He hasn't been horrible on defense, either. Grade: B-

Rafael Furcal
- Furcal was supposed to be the catalyst for the offense. In the last year of his deal, he was looking to have a big season. But he, like many other Dodgers, has been bitten by the injury bug. He hasn't produced much in his limited playing time. He's currently rehabbing and should be back soon. Grade: D-

Jerry Sands
- Sands made his MLB debut in May, and it was unexpected. The 23-year-old started slow (2-for-18 in his first five games) before looking like he was on track. He hit a mammoth grand slam in Houston on May 24, which was the high point of his first half. He followed that up with a 3-for-33 stretch to earn a triple back to Albuquerque. Still, his OBP is 94 points higher than his batting average and he's hit well since returning. There's a lot to be excited about with him. Grade: C

Matt Kemp
- Kemp is an MVP candidate. He's had the best first half of any player on this team and arguably anyone in the National League. He is sixth in the NL in batting average, tied for second in home runs (22), second in slugging (.584), third in OPS (.982), second in OPS+ (178) and he leads the NL in total bases (198). He ranks first in Baseball Reference's WAR ratings (5.7) and third in FanGraphs' WAR ratings (4.4). He's also increased his walk rate to 12.2 percent this season after being at 7.8 and 7.9 the last two seasons. He is one of two main reasons to keep watching this team. Grade: A+

Andre Ethier
- Ethier got off to a torrid start in 2010 -- .392/.457/.744 -- before suffering an injury to his pinkie finger. He got off to a great start this season, which included a 30-game hitting streak. However, his power numbers are down. He has just nine home runs in 288 at-bats. He hit a home run every 25.3 at-bats coming into the season. In 2011, that number is down to 36.4, thanks to two home runs on Sunday. The Dodgers need his power to return. He still has a good batting average and a great on-base percentage. Grade: B

Starting Rotation
Clayton Kershaw
9-4, 3.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
- Kershaw has been downright dominant at times -- including his last two starts. He had a couple of rough starts at the beginning of this month, but he's found his groove and made his first All-Star team. He leads the Majors in strikeouts (147) and K/9, but two of his most impressive statistics are his BB/9 (2.4) and K/BB ratio (4.2). He has three complete games and two shutouts. And on a bright note, he is second amongst pitchers in hits (11) and a sparkling 8.9 percent K-rate. Grade: A

Chad Billingsley
8-7, 3.87 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.7 K/9
- Billingsley signed a contract extension before the season started, which was great. His April, however, was not so great -- 4.46 ERA, 1.37 WHIP. But he did have his best start of the season in that month against the Cardinals on April 17 (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K, ND). He had a great May, despite going 2-3 in the month -- 2.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 -- before struggling a bit in June. His last four starts (3-1, 1.32 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .183 BAA) has lowered his season ERA back under 4.00 for the first time since June 5. The Dodgers need more out of him, though. Grade: C+

Hiroki Kuroda
6-10, 3.06 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
- Kuroda has been one of the unluckiest pitchers on the team. Despite the second-best ERA of all the starters, he's still lost 10 of his 16 decisions. He could (should) be a trade candidate in about a month. He's given up the long ball at a higher rate than any in his career (0.94 HR/9 in 2011, 0.7 in 2008-10). That's something to watch in the second half. Grade: B

Ted Lilly
6-9, 4.79 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.6 K/9
- Lilly was acquired last July and pitched pretty well for the Dodgers (7-4, 3.52 ERA, 0.99 WHIP). He was signed, foolishly, to a 3-year deal in the winter. So far, he hasn't lived up to the contract. His walk rate is great (1.9 BB/9), but that's about it. His H/9 is at 9.8 -- 2.1 higher than 2010 -- and he's given up 19 home runs. Grade: D+

Jon Garland
1-5, 4.33 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 4.7 K/9
- Garland was a somewhat surprise signing in the off-season and looked like a steal. However, he hasn't been healthy. He's been on the disabled list twice this season -- twice more than any other time in his career. Some teams were concerned about the health of his shoulder in the off-season, but that didn't deter the Dodgers from signing him. His best start came against the Braves in April (9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K), and he's had a few other solid starts. Grade: C-

Rubby De La Rosa
3-4, 3.74 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 8.7 K/9
- De La Rosa was another surprise call-up and had a couple of good starts, a couple of bad starts and a couple more good starts, including his best as a pro on on Saturday (6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 8 K). Still, as a 22-year-old, he's going to have his ups and downs. He needs to improve his control. His innings will be limited come August and September. Grade: C

John Ely
6.23 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 9.3 K/9
- He made two appearances (one start). He's struggling in Triple-A. Grade: INC

Jonathan Broxton
1-2, 5.68 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 7 SV
- Word just came down today that Broxton will be shut down for three more weeks and he might not pitch again this season. He didn't exactly inspire confidence in his 14 games this season, posting a 5.68 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 10.7 H/9, 6.4 BB/9, 7.1 K/9 and a 1.11 K/BB ratio. He clearly hasn't been right physically since last season and his best days might be behind him. Grade: D-

Blake Hawksworth
2-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6.6 K/9
- Hawksworth, acquired for Ryan Theriot in the winter, has been a solid performer for the Dodgers. He isn't going to strikeout a lot of guys, but he's getting the job done right now. He's been the most consistent reliever for the Dodgers in the first 92 games. Grade: B

Kenley Jansen
1-1, 4.40 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 14.1 K/9
- Jansen was great in his 2010 debut and was expected to do big things out of the Dodgers' bullpen this season. He got off to a shaky start, spending some time on the DL and in the minors. Despite all that, he has a most impressive K/9 rate. Since April 22 (20 appearances), he has a 1.64 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 14.3 K/9 and a .120 BAA. It's safe to say he's back on track. Grade: C-

Mike MacDougal
0-1, 1.74 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 6.1 K/9
- Don't let the shiny ERA fool you, MacDougal has been pedestrian at best this season. His WHIP is high, his K/9 is low and his K/BB is poor. He has done a good job of not giving up home runs (one in 31 innings). Don't expect that ERA to stay under 3.00 for too long. Grade: C

Josh Lindblom, Grade: B
Javy Guerra, Grade: B
Scott Elbert, Grade: B-
Vicente Padilla, Grade: C+
Matt Guerrier, Grade: D+
Lance Cormier, Grade: F
Hong-Chih Kuo, Grade: INC

A.J. Ellis, Grade: C
Tony Gwynn, Grade: C
Jay Gibbons, Grade: C-
Dee Gordon, Grade: C-
Trent Oeltjen, Grade: C-
Marcus Thames, Grade: D+
Ivan DeJesus, Grade: D-
Dioner Navarro, Grade: D-
Juan Castro, Grade: F (thank goodness he recently retired)
Russ Mitchell, Grade: F
Hector Gimenez, Grade: INC
Jamie Hoffmann, Grade: INC
Xavier Paul, Grade: INC

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